The World’s Most Fantastic Pergolas.

You might think a pergola is a pergola.  It is not.  They range from ugly to really ugly to stunningly beautiful. As I found out this winter while searching for one for my backyard.  If you’re looking for the stunningly beautiful type,  here are 10 great options to inspire you.

Here’s the thing with Canada. As soon as spring hits, the catalogues and flyers start showing up in the mail with pictures of happy families standing around a grill grinning like lunatics.  In some photos they’re sitting stiffly on outdoor furniture with sweaty glasses of lemonade in their hands. Everything look shiny and clean and wonderful.

It’s all a lie.  If they wanted to portray real Canadian outdoor living in their catalogues they’d show a photo of a woman with her head out the car window screaming at everyone to get out of her way as she runs 15 consecutive red lights in an attempt to get home before the surprise rain storm hits and soaks all of her family’s outdoor cushions to the point that they weigh 742 pounds each.

You never see a photo like that.

Canada you see, is not really meant for outdoor furniture. Not the upholstered kind anyway. The only way around it is to throw a tarp over your furniture when you’re not using it *just in case* it rains or to build a pergola and throw a tarp over that.

Most pergola’s from home improvement stores come with a cover over them or a retractable shade but … those aren’t recommended for heavy rain or leaving out in bad weather. You’re supposed to wind them up out of the way to protect them.  Even though they’re supposed to be protecting your outdoor cushions so you don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to thunder, trudge outside, get into a fight with a raccoon, trip on the hose and bust your lip while attempting to cover your furniture with a tarp.

Uh huh.  As you may know, I built myself a copy of the Restoration Hardware Aspen collection furniture a couple of years ago.  Here’s the post on it. The furniture cost very little to build. A few hundred dollars if I remember correctly. The cushions?  They were somewhere around $1,000 to have made. 

That’s just with regular foam and fade resistant fabric.  I could have opted for waterproof fabric and foam but that would have jumped the price of my cushions up to around the price of a 5 vials of Martian eyeballs.  So I cheaped out.

This is the area I want to protect with a pergola.


“Now I am that woman screaming home to throw a tarp over her cushions. I am that woman kickboxing a raccoon at 1 in the morning.  I don’t want to be that woman anymore.  Which means I have to build a pergola. 

And then I have to figure out a way to make it waterproof without blocking any sunlight into my house and keep the cost under a nuclear warhead.  Good luck to me.” 

Those are the words I said to myself 4 years ago.  FOUR YEARS.

I spent a lot of time on Google and Pinterest marvelling at all the pergolas I couldn’t afford to build.  But they did provide some great inspiration which I’ve ignored for the past 4 years. I just haven’t had time to build or buy a pergola. 

However, a couple of nights ago my sister and brother-in-law showed up at my house at 9:30 at night with 4 pergola pillars.  Not an actual pergola. Just 4 black pillars that at one point belonged to someone else’s pergola. 

I believe they found them at my favourite store – the garbage.  That was all the incentive I needed.  THIS is the summer I make a pergola.

It turns out there are more pergola designs out there than you can shake a catalogue at. And now that I have 4 pillars to turn into a pergola I have some decisions to make. 

I could leave them as is, or cover them in wood, make them modern, make them traditional. Whatever I want. Having 4 random pillars also gives me the opportunity to make the pergola the exact size I want. I don’t have to stick with a store bought 10 x 10. Or 12 x 10.  If I want I can make my pergola 12.74 feet long by 8.45 feet wide.  I won’t.  But I could.

I’m looking for something rustic and modern at the same time.  These (including the one at the top of this page) are 10 of my favourites.


no source for this image other than the spammy site I found it on,  which I refuse to link to.

I love the shape and harshness of the design of this one up top. 


Designed by Marnie Lewis

I mean this is just something else. From the chairs that are bums to the cantilevered steps leading to the outdoor fireplace.  It’s stunning.  Nothing at all like I could have but it’s still inspirational.



I really like this.  I like it a lot.  This retractable awning is soft and if made out of a waterproof fabric could actually … dare I say it … be a viable option for me.  

All I have to do is figure out how to make a retractable roof for my 4 pillars.



I don’t love all the squiggles on the roofing material but I do like the use of 2″x8″s (or whatever they are) as the posts.  As a nature lover and someone who will choose to be outside rather than inside 99% of the time I’m embarrassed to say I’m digging the television outside.

I used to have a tv in my backyard and there’s nothing like watching a baseball game out in the backyard.


no source found :(


This one is kind of a problem solver. It’s a pergola with a glass roof.  But glass seems kind of risky what with the raccoons prowling and pooing and my regular roof.  



This pergola roof seems to be some type of wire mesh which would give a tiny big of shade. But no protection for cushions.



I can’t quite tell from the photo but this room (take a closer look, it’s all encased in glass) could have either a glass roof or a polycarbonate roof.  A lot of pergolas and gazebos are being outfitted with polycarbonate roofs lately.  They’re a plastic material in sort of a honeycomb pattern that comes in clear or a variety of colours allowing light through them but no rain.


sources all spammy

Yeah. I can’t have this but I like it.  I have a thing for concrete fences and walls.  I love them.  I’d do exceptionally well in prison.

again … all sources spammy

This is a real combination of contemporary with a traditional pergola style in terms of the roofing.  Maybe too traditional for me, but I do like the black.

Why all this worry? All this debating and planning?  Why put up a pergola at all?  

  1. Function.  Like I said, having a way to protect your outdoor furniture and cushions from the rain and other elements is a necessity in this climate.  Depending on where your patio furniture is located in your yard, protecting it and you from the sun is also necessary.
  2. Defining the space.  Putting a pergola around an area of your yard instantly creates a focal point and
  3. Enjoyment. Half the time in the summer when it rains, it’s just raining. It’s not a massive thunderstorm with squirrels flying through the air.  It’s just a bit of rain. With a pergola that has a roof on it, you can be outside cozy in your little outdoor room in the rain.

Watching baseball.


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The World\'s Most Fantastic Pergolas.


  1. Jan Schaller says:

    I have a clear acrylic roof over my back steps. Kinda ugly but lets all the light in and keeps rain out. But a big spring/summer job is washing, nay scrubbing, the winter’s dirt and leaves and spring pollen off the top. This means dragging a garden hose to where I can reach and leaning out second floor windows with a long mop and brush. Very amusing for the neighbors. The back of the house is about 7′ above ground so even if I had a ladder that tall there’s no way I’m climbing up there.

  2. june says:

    I love a beautiful pergola and if you decide to got in that direction, sue it will be beautiful. In the meantime, I would recommend you look at marine fabric protectors for boaters. A brand named 303 is available in US. Maybe you can find it or something similar in Canada.

  3. Sean Kelly says:

    Why not build one with modern geometry, chunky black beams, sloped polycarbonate roofing, and a retractable weatherproof awning to cover the polyacarbonate at night from the raccoons? Seems like you could make all of these things happen and your end product would be both beautiful and highly functional.

    • Karen says:

      Yup, all of those are possibilities. It’s just a matter of me deciding what is best for my area. Which could take a while, lol. Much longer than the actual building. ~ karen!

  4. Marie Anne says:

    I’m having a similar dilemma myself right now. We are building a deck and I need to figure out shade but want the full sun too, and would love overhead lights but not a big heavy pergola. The landscaper is building the deck without attaching to the house which is stucco. So now I’m afraid to use the hook and eyes I was planning to put into the house to string lights, and maybe a sail shade. We have offset umbrellas but was hoping to save the floor space. If any of you have some ideas, comment away!!

  5. Judy Persson says:

    We had a pergola in our back yard when living in the Okanagan Valley, central BC. It was very similar to what you are wishing for….except it was covered with vines. I think they were called a Silver Lace vine. It was about 12 inches thick on top and grew about 3 feet a week! My husband HATED it (he tried to keep it trimmed). The neighbours also had it growing on their fence and there were competing hedge trimmers roaring every weekend. I liked it untrimmed as it would bloom with long tendrils of white flowers (hence the name Silver Lace). Because of the thickness on top we could sit outside in a rainstorm and stay dry! The rain would eventually soak through but only if it bucketed down for hours/days.

  6. Sarah says:

    Our deck has a pergola with (I think) oriental bittersweet growing up the side and over the top of it. Surprisingly, it keeps out most of the rain. However, it doesn’t let a whole lot of light in. Took awhile for the vine to grow into most of the areas of the pergola, but the result is pretty stunning after running some cafe lights through it.

  7. Mary W says:

    As a tent camper, I know that waterproof canvas is a misnomer – try waterproof-ish. As kids we would run our finger along the wet surface from inside the tent which then allowed water to come thru the fabric anywhere our mean little fingers wrote. In Florida this would be a sunny day only solution. Or maybe an inside my windows solution – I think they call it Roman shade. Sleeping underneath was a form of water torture our parents used as they went to sleep in the car.

  8. Natalia says:

    My neighbor has a polycarbonate roof over his patio. It makes funny, cracking noises when the temperature outside changes. Just a thing to keep in mind. Good luck on your pergola adventure :)

  9. Leticia says:

    Where I am in Brazil is also not made for outdoor furniture. It rains every day in summer and never rains in winter – our 20º C winter.

    My low stress, no maintenance suggestion is: get yourself wooden furniture, no cushions and enjoy.

  10. Ev Wilcox says:

    Here in northeast Ohio we have the same problem with rain/snow. I have an enclosed porch with big windows and screens (Not going to deal w mosquitos, flys, or bees, or having to cover up furniture). The wrap around deck lets us be outside as well. No, we don’t have $$. What we had was a husband who was great at building! I did all the painting/staining. He has lost his abilities with time, but I remind him that he built all this, including other things in and around the house. I never “got” pergolas. If it is raining you won’t be using it. If the sun is cooking you alive, you won’t be using it. If the bugs are out and about, THEY will be using YOU! I see their beauty, but function seems to be missing. Oh well, different strokes. Karen, whatever you end up with will be wonderful, I’m sure!

  11. Marilyn says:

    We are currently building a was supposed to be a pergola but I wanted protection from the elements so it has a regular roof in it . It’s going to look pretty cool when it’s finished and will provide us with a nice spot to enjoy the’s been a lot of work though as we have to move some gardens and add more flagstone patio as my husband and I never seem to be able to build anything small ! Big families do that to a person , we could feed a small army on any given night ! We too looked at different designs and decided to build our own , we will run power to it and install a ceiling fan as well . Have you considered just getting Or building a deck box? We have one on our deck and it holds all of our cushions nicely and they are clean and dry when we need to use them.

    • Karen says:

      Hey Marilyn! My furniture cushions are HUGE. Like 7 feet long, lol. So they’re a real pain to move, otherwise I could just pop them in my shed. ~ karen!

  12. Mary C. says:

    I live in a suburb of Minneapolis, MN. I get it. However, don’t have a do it yourself kind of husband and I’m too busy. I opted for the weatherproof cushions so I don’t have that kind of stress in my life. Good luck to you, I’ll be watching and drooling from afar.

  13. Jane Doe says:

    Hey Karen, speaking as a former furniture salesgirl– Please don’t go with scotchguard. It sits on top of the fabric, and flakes up. It’s awful.

    What you want is guardsman spray: soaks into the cushions; is near indestructible. Buy it on amazon. One can costs about $15 USD and does an entire sofa. Or your car interior. Or the white carpet near your front door. Or a few pairs of white pants you bought because for one moment you had a dream– but I digress–

    $50 should do your yard cushions easily. Raccoons are still your problem.

    • Karen says:

      Interesting! Thanks I’ll have a look. ~ karen!

    • Eve says:

      Ooh, I’ll be looking into this too! I’d love to be able to leave a cushion on a garden bench for the summer here in Oregon! It’s mostly under a massive cedar tree, (Oregon), but sometimes still gets caught in a deluge (again, Oregon).

  14. Kirsten says:

    We are in love with the addition of this roof over our patio and even use it in cold ontario winter with a fire table to warm our toes.

  15. Kari in Dallas says:

    I have a polycarbonate roof on mine. Blocks the UV but allows enough light for my Taro to grow well. If you have trees, be careful of fabric, as it will become a leaf catcher in Autumn, and that’s a pain in the ass to clean.

    • Karen says:

      ok. One vote for polycarbonate. ~ karen!

    • AmyL says:

      Another vote for *twinwall* polycarbonate (not plain sheets). Kari’s looks a little dark underneath because her pergola has a lot of wooden slats over the joists, but a local Audubon sanctuary has a polycarbonate roof on their farmstand and it’s very light and airy and looks great. You do have to be sure to build in slope to shed all the schmutz that will fall on it. Also, you can get longer lengths to minimize seams (eg. 4′ x 12′ for $131.72 at interstateplastics(dot)com. Don’t buy at Home Depot (or equivalent): very little selection and twice the price.

      And if you want a short-term solution while you plan/save money, here’s an outside-the-box thought: because I needed “temporary” (we’re in a rental) and I didn’t like any of the fancy-schmancy pergolas that can be purchased, I bought an arch-top carport and it’s been perfect. It doesn’t look too carporty; the canopy is off-white so it doesn’t look like and art faire popup tent; and it is surprisingly bright underneath.

  16. Thera says:

    Now if someone could do a black wood pergola with a rectactable tin roof like a slatted blind?

  17. judy says:

    I cracked up at the prison comment,that prison wouldn’t know what hit it, what with the chickens and the whole revamping of the prison yard into pizza ovens and glam furniture-not to mention the various escape routes dug when blonde goddess person became bored with prison togs and bad food…..the images just keep rolling in and now I spilled the durn coffee on the new laptop! P.S. My humble apologies for the insults to Mr. Trudeau and all Canadians for our choice of leadership? We are in the throes of idiocracy -here’s hoping we survive.

    • Ev Wilcox says:

      Every time I see/hear a Canadian politician I wish I could say “we’re so sorry for the idiocracy (GOOD WORD!) we’ve become in USA. And I did NOT vote for that thing in the White House. Don’t get me started….

      • Mia says:

        Hahaha, that thing in the white house. Another American here who apologizes for “it” and appreciates that Candian grace and class

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Judy, I appreciate it. :) ~ karen!

    • Debbie D says:

      Yes, sorry for the bad mannered two year old in the white house. My fear (other than him knowing the codes to start WWIII) is that we are in for another 4 more years of this.

      I have seen pergolas that have a awning that is like a shutter, that you can angle it open or closed. So it would let in light on sunny days and be shut on rainy ones. They were very expensive (too rich for my blood) but I bet you could hook it up to a smart switch that you could control with your phone and wifi. That way there would be no rushing home if it started to rain.

  18. Jenny W says:

    Thank you for addressing “Canadian Problem #1” during the summer.
    I longingly covet beautiful summer patios on Blogs, written by our Southern neighbours, and wonder what they do with all of the prettiness when it rains?
    I have a huge, resin wicker chest, that I pile all of my seat cushions in, if there is even a sleight chance of rain. (which happens to be every single day here in Atlantic Canada, even though it doesn’t)
    I thought I would splurge and put an indoor/outdoor carpet down this year instead of the plastic variety – Big Mistake! It poured rain yesterday, and because my patio is in constant shade, I have a feeling it will be a sopping wet mess for the foreseeable future :P
    Bonus for us? We don’t have to deal with scorpions and other deadly bugs & snakes :)

    • NinaMargo says:

      Jenny, I live in Arizona. I have “weatherproof” cushions on my patio furniture. I watch the weather reports and try to put them away to keep them dry. If they do get wet, it’s hot enough here, that they dry pretty quickly. I pay more attention to the weather if we have people coming over. This time of year it’s too hot to eat outside, otherwise, whatever…
      They’ll be replaced in the next couple years anyway and I distract my guest with food, flowers and cocktails. ;)

  19. Sachi says:

    Personally, I love the one with the retractable awning. Beautiful. Also. Lol’d so hard the prison comment. :’D

    • Karen says:

      I’d for sure be the one who gets caught trying to tunnel her way out with a homemade drill. ~ karen!

      • Deborah says:

        I have been planning a pergola that is just the sturdy frame, and then adding steel cables running the entire length just below the top. The plan is to use lengths of sunbrella fabric with grommets attached and small pole handles at one end to make the fabric retractable. Well, retractable if I have a person on the other side, or I can make the poles really long. If I attach the attach the grommets to the cable with removable clips, I can take the fabric down to clean and store for the winter. I need protection from the sun, but want to see the stars at night.

  20. Wendy W says:

    I have a 10 x 12 gazebo with a tin roof that I love. Might not be what you’re looking for but in the winter I just pull the curtains closed and everything is protected for the winter too.

    • Karen says:

      I wish a store bought gazebo would fit, but it won’t. I need something at least 14 x 14 to cover my furniture. ~ karen!

  21. Jo says:

    Why don’t you just build the frame of your choice. Whether it is modern or traditional style … then put tin on top? It comes in about 74 colors and is not really all that expensive. The painted colors last forever the galvanized ones come in either coated or non-coated. Non-coated will Rust. I’m currently building my house shower out of these walls. Very rustic and cabiny feeling. Which is what suits my house. My front porch roof and house are tin and I absolutely love hearing the rain on it. And it’s also at the same time quite protective. I will be building a pergola. I have orange tin to do this one. Very bright and colorful and recycled out of a barn. I also am tackled my shed a few years ago and used the orange tin for the roof and
    Recycled aluminum siding from a hail storm.

    Good luck with your project. I need you to sort this out an post of the finished product and with a step by step tutorial? Please and thanks. Will be waiting patiently. Something I am am not.good at LoL

    • Monica says:

      But it wouldn’t allow light through it, which I think is a deal breaker for Karen. But for her very high demands on the material I think she may end up with a full roof of either glass or plastic.

      • Sarah McDonnell says:

        There is that polycarbonate, translucent stuff that comes in sheets like tin. It’s ugly but if it had a box frame it might look good. The flat poly that looks like actual glass gets hazy and crusty like a shower door in a frat house. It would make an interesting post though; “How To Clean a Roof With Vinegar and Toothpaste That You Probably Already Have Around Your House”.
        Find an Arby’s thats being dismantled and take the tempered glass roof?Stack car windshield like slate? Stitch shower curtains into a giant Roman shade? Use E6000 to glue tiles made of milk jugs?? Trying to brainstorm but only sprinkling.

      • Nancy Ann Page says:

        Sarah McDonnell…..

        You’re really funny! Laughed out loud.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jo! My sister who has built a few things has warned me against a tin roof because they’re SO loud. I like the rain but I don’t want it too loud. But mainly I can’t have a tin roof because it would block all the sun going into the only big window in my kitchen. I need a roof that retracts in some way. :) ~ karen!

  22. Heidi says:

    Can you write a post on how to scotchguard cushions yourself?

    • Karen says:

      I could but really you just spray them with a sweeping motion a couple of times. That’s about it. :) ~ karen!

      • Brian says:

        Aren’t they doing away with Scotchguard as it never disappears from the environment? Or did they reformulate it?

      • Karen says:

        Scotchguard is alive and well as far as I know. It’s definitely on the shelves of my local hardware store. ~ karen!

      • Janie says:

        I removed the covers from my cushions, covered each one with a plastic bag, then replaced the covers. Instant water proofing. The cover gets wet but the foam doesn’t.

      • Melissa says:

        I was just going to post the same idea.

        My mom has over 20 cushions in her patio and anytime it rains we run around like headless chickens trying to pile them all on her covered swing.

        I’m slowly lining them all in trash bags… the ones that have zippers, that is.

      • Karen says:

        As soon as my local Dollarama opens, I’m getting their cushion covers and doing it! Putting the covers on the inside of the cushion over the foam. ~ karen!

  23. Paula says:

    Very funny post today! Love it.

  24. Carla says:

    I read the title as “the world’s most fantastic PEROGIES”.
    I’m a little disappointed. Those certainly are lovely pergolas, but they definitely aren’t perogies.

  25. Tracy says:

    Hey Karen,
    I have the one in the fourth picture down. Costco sells it. Wonderful for shade. But the rain drips through the fabric. Perfect for northern California, but not so great for rainy places.

    • Nicole S. says:

      I pinned a bunch of how-to instructions for that one a while ago. Can’t find the pins now because I pin a lot of crap. I mean things. Knowing it’s available at Costco, which is about 6 blocks away from, is awesome.

      I bet if you DIY it, you could use a waterproof fabric, Karen.

      One of my friends who is way more sewing-adept than I am made cushion covers for outside from vinyl tablecloths. No idea how they’ll last, but the tablecloths were cheap. I bet one or two could be used in a pergola cover way.

      Another option would be to cover it with Tuftex. <- a vlogger I follow uses their stuff all the time.

    • Karen says:

      HI Tracy! I’m just curious, is it exactly like the one pictured, on an angle, made of 2″x10″s? We don’t have it at the Canadian Costco but I do like the look of it. ~ karen!

    • Tracy says:

      Hi Karen,

      Ours isn’t as chunky. It’s 4x4s or 6x6s, I think. We get quite a lot of dust out here and after a rain or mist it dribbles the dirt onto my cushions. It looks like I spilled coffee everywhere.

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